China hits back after US imposes tariffs worth $34bn


Video:  https://www.bbc.com/news/av/embed/p06cvv5k/44697671

US tariffs on $34bn (£25.7bn) of Chinese goods have come into effect, signalling the start of a trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

The 25% levy came into effect at midnight Washington time.

China has retaliated by imposing a similar 25% tariff on 545 US products, also worth a total of $34bn.

Beijing accused the US of starting the “largest trade war in economic history”.

“After the US activated its tariff measures against China, China’s measures against the US took effect immediately,” said Lu Kang, a foreign ministry spokesman.

Two companies in Shanghai told the BBC that customs authorities were delaying clearance processes for US imports on Friday.

The American tariffs are the result of President Donald Trump’s bid to protect US jobs and stop “unfair transfers of American technology and intellectual property to China”.

The White House said it would consult on tariffs on another $16bn of products, which Mr Trump has suggested could come into effect later this month.

Video:  https://www.bbc.com/news/av/embed/p06d06gb/44707253

The imposition of the tariffs had little impact on Asian stock markets. The Shanghai Composite closed 0.5% higher, but ended the week 3.5% lower – its seventh consecutive week of losses.

Tokyo closed 1.1% higher, but Hong Kong fell 0.5% in late trading.

Hikaru Sato at Daiwa Securities said markets had already factored in the impact of the first round of tariffs.

list of products

Mr Trump has already imposed tariffs on imported washing machines and solar panels, and started charging levies on the imports of steel and aluminium from the European Union, Mexico and Canada.

He has also threatened a 10% levy on an additional $200bn of Chinese goods if Beijng “refuses to change its practices”.

The president upped the stakes on Thursday, saying the amount of goods subject to tariffs could rise to more than $500bn.

“You have another 16 [billion dollars] in two weeks, and then, as you know, we have $200bn in abeyance and then after the $200bn, we have $300bn in abeyance. OK? So we have 50 plus 200 plus almost 300,” he said.

The US tariffs imposed so far would affect the equivalent of 0.6% of global trade and account for 0.1% of global GDP, according to Morgan Stanley in a research note issued before Mr Trump’s comments on Thursday.

Analysts are also concerned about the impact on others in the supply chain and about an escalation of tensions between the US and China in general.

Timeline

 

US-China trade war

16 February, 2018
US Commerce Department recommends a 24%
tariff on all steel imports and 7.7% on aluminium. It’s seen as a policy
directed at China, which is the world’s largest maker of steel.
22 March, 2018
China says it will impose tariffs on US goods worth $3bn.
22 March, 2018
President Trump announces a plan to impose
further tariffs on Chinese imports worth $60bn but grants temporary
exemptions from aluminium and steel tariffs to the EU, South Korea and
other countries.
2 April, 2018
China imposes 25% tariffs on 128 US products including wine and pork.
3 April, 2018
The US Government proposes new additional
tariffs on Chinese imports worth $50bn. These include: televisions,
medical equipment, aircraft parts and batteries.
4 April, 2018
China proposes tariffs on US goods worth $50bn.
5 April, 2018
President Trump announces he’s considering additional tariffs on Chinese products worth $100bn.
15 June, 2018
President Donald Trump announces new
tariffs on goods worth $34bn will come into force on 6 July 2018. He
also proposes a new list of tariffs for imported goods worth $16bn.
15 June, 2018
China says it will respond to these new US
impositions with it’s own new tariffs on agricultural products and
manufactured goods.
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Govt Linked Companies (GLCs) – Monsters in the house?


Politicians should not be appointed to run government-linkedv companies (GLCs) to keep graft in check, said Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Advisory Board Chairman Tunku Abdul Aziz Tunku Ibrahim.He  said politicians holding GLC positions might face conflicts of interest, ading to abuse of power and responsibility.

ABOUT a month before Malaysia’s  parliamentary election in May,
then-opposition leader Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad raised concerns over the
role that government-linked companies (GLCs) were playing in the
economy, being “huge and rich” enough to be considered “monsters”.

Data support his description – GLCs account for about half of the  Benchmark Kuala Lumpur Composite Index, and they  constitute seven out of the top-10 listed firms in 2018. They are present in almost every sector, sometimes in a towering way. Globally, Malaysia ranks fifth-highest in terms of GLC influence on the economy.

Calls to do something about GLCs have   increased since the election following the  release of more damning information, although most of it relates to the GLCs’ investment arm: government-linked investment companies (GLICs).

Some experts have proposed the formation of an independent body with
operational oversight for GLICs, after institutional autonomy is established and internal managerial reforms are introduced. Unlike most GLCs, GLICs are not publicly listed and face little scrutiny. The same applies to the various funds at the constituent state level, which need to be looked at too.

For GLCs, the answer is less straightforward. PM Tun Mahathir claims that GLCs have lost track of their original function. Before the Malaysian government decides on what to do, it needs to examine the role GLCs should play – as opposed to the role they currently play – and to examine their impact on the economy.

In Malaysia, GLCs were uniquely tasked to assist in the government’s affirmative action program to improve the absolute and relative position of bumiputras. The intention was to help create a new class of bumiputra entrepreneurs – first through the GLCs themselves, and then through a process of divestment.

Given the amounts of money involved and the cost of the distortions introduced, the benefits to bumiputra were unjustifiably small and unequally distributed. The approach of using GLCs as instruments of affirmative action failed because it led to a rise in state dependence, widespread complacency and even corruption, as Tun Mahathir himself recognised in his memoirs, A Doctor in the House, and again more
recently. There is also empirical evidence that GLCs have been crowding out private investment, a concern raised in the New Economic Model as early as 2011.

Additionally, the new government has correctly highlighted the need to include certain off-balance-sheet items and contingent liabilities, such as government guarantees and public-private partnership lease payments, in any complete assessment of debt outstanding. The use of offshoot companies and special purpose vehicles (SPVs) in the deliberate reconfiguration of certain obligations mean that traditional debt calculations underestimate Malaysia’s actual debt.

All these factors combine to place new impetus on reconsidering the extent of government involvement in business. Divestment will not solve  Malaysia’s debt problem, but it can help if there are good reasons to pursue it. So how should the government proceed?

It is important to recognise at the outset, that there is a legitimate role for government in business – providing public goods, addressing market failures or promoting social advancement. And like in most other countries, there are good and bad GLCs in Malaysia. If a GLC is not crowding out private enterprise, operates efficiently and performs a social function effectively, then there is no reason to consider  divestment. But a GLC that crowds out private investment in a sector with no public or social function, or one that is inefficiently run, should be a candidate for divestment. In this regard, one has to carefully study why GLCs should be present in retail, construction or property development, for instance.

In assessing performance, one needs to separate results that arise from true efficiency, versus preferential treatment that generates artificial rent for the GLC. The latter is a drain on public resources and a tax on consumers. Divestment in this case, will likely provide more than a one-off financial injection to government coffers – it will provide
ongoing benefits through fiscal savings or better allocation of public resources.

The divestment process should be carefully managed to ensure that public assets are disposed at fair market value, and does not concentrate market power or wealth in the hands of a few. This has allegedly happened with privatisation efforts in the past.

The new government has committed itself to addressing corruption and improving the management of public resources. As part of this process, one must re-examine just how much government is involved in business. This is one of the many tasks that the Council of Eminent Persons is undertaking in the first 100 days of the new government.

To be done correctly, would require a careful study of GLCs and their impacts. This could then rejuvenate the private sector while enabling  good GLCs to thrive, and fortify Malaysia’s fiscal position in the process. This is what Malaysians should expect – and indeed demand – of the “New Malaysia”.

Jayant Menon is Lead Economist in the Economic Research and Regional Cooperation Department at the Asian Development Bank. This is an abridged version of an item that first appeared on the East Asia Forum.

Jayant Menon The Sundaily

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Malaysia’s RM1.09 trillion debt, 80.3% of GDP demystified


Analysts say new government needs to quickly introduce measures to reduce the country’s liabilities

ASSUMING the government repays its debt by RM1mil a day, it would take Malaysia 2,979 years to pay off its debts.

Malaysia’s new Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad revealed on May 21 that the country’s debt level has breached the RM1 trillion mark during his first address to civil servants.

The statement, which was nothing less than alarming, has since raised concerns among Malaysians on the country’s fiscal sustainability. Bursa Malaysia was hammered for four consecutive days, as investors frantically sold off their stakes.

The benchmark FBM KLCI saw the biggest year-to-date decline on May 23, tumbling by 40.78 points or 2.21% to 1,804.25 points.

Total gains made by the index this year were all wiped out in just four days following Dr Mahathir’s announcement.

The ringgit, which has weakened since early April, continues to decline as concerns on public debt loom.

Big impact: The benchmark FBM KLCI saw the biggest year-to-date decline on May 23, tumbling by 40.78 points or 2.21 to 1,804.25 points.
An economist tells StarBizWeek that Dr Mahathir’s public announcement on the high debt figure is “not helping”, as anxiety intensifies among Malaysians and in the market.

For context, Malaysia’s real gross domestic product (GDP), an indicator of the size of economy, was RM1.35 trillion as at end-2017 – close to the said RM1 trillion debt amount.

Meanwhile, the federal government’s revenue this year is projected at RM239.9bil as per Budget 2018.

Several critics, including Umno Youth deputy chief Khairul Azwan Harun, claim that Dr Mahathir’s statement on the federal government debt was exaggerated and far-fetched.

AmBank Group chief economist Anthony Dass says that although the current scenario shows some signs of similarities to the 1997/98 Asian Financial Crisis, he would not conclude that the current fiscal condition is somewhat similar to the downturn 20 years ago.

At a glance, the “RM1 trillion debt” remark stands in sharp contrast to Bank Negara’s debt tally of RM686.8bil as at end-2017, putting the federal government’s debt-to-GDP ratio at 50.8% – lower than the 55% self-imposed debt limit.

Dr Mahathir refutes this, saying that the national debt-to-GDP ratio has shot up to 65.4%. A day after his announcement, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng put the ratio at 80.3% of GDP, or about RM1.09 trillion in debt as at end-2017.

Why is there such an obvious difference in the debt amount now that a new government is in place?

Here is where “creative accounting” comes into play.

The lower official debt figures released under the previous Barisan Nasional government had excluded the contingent liabilities and several other major “hidden” debts from the direct liabilities, which amounted to RM686.8bil as at end-2017.

Contingent liabilities, which were released separately prior to this, basically refer to government-guaranteed debt and do not appear on the country’s balance sheet. Examples of contingent liabilities are the loans under the National Higher Education Fund Corp (PTPTN) and certain debt of the controversial 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

As at end-2017, Malaysia’s contingent liabilities stood at RM238bil.

Funding for several government mega-projects such as the mass rapid transit (MRT) projects was also categorised as contingent liabilities. The MRT lines were funded by DanaInfra Nasional Bhd, the government’s special funding vehicle for infrastructure projects.

DanaInfra raises money from the market through sukuk, which are, in turn, guaranteed by the government. The guaranteed amount is classified as a contingent liability.

In the event of less-than-expected revenue collection from the MRT lines moving forward, the government will have to intervene to repay the sukuk holders.

The current ruling government believes that RM199.1bil out of the RM238bil contingent liabilities deserves attention to ensure proper debt repayment.

The 1MDB alone comes with an estimated contingent liability of RM38bil.

High figure: The 1MDB alone comes with an estimated contingent liability of RM38bil. — Reuters
High figure: The 1MDB alone comes with an estimated contingent liability of RM38bil. — Reuters 

On the remaining government guarantees, the Finance Ministry says they have been provided by “entities which are able to service their debts such as Khazanah Nasional Bhd, Tenaga Nasional Bhd and MIDF”.

Apart from contingent liabilities, there are several major “hidden” debts, which do not fall under both direct liabilities and contingent liabilities.

An economist with a leading investment bank in Malaysia calls the debts “off-off-balance sheet” government debt.

These are the future commitments of the federal government to make lease payments for public-private partnership projects such as schools, roads and hospitals.

Examples of such debt would include the debt of Pembinaan PFI Sdn Bhd, a company owned by the Finance Ministry. Pembinaan PFI was established in 2006 under the previous Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi administration to source financing to undertake government construction projects.

According to its latest available financial statement for 2014, Pembinaan PFI held a total debt of RM28.75bil.

Interestingly, at end-2012, the company’s debt was the third highest among all government-owned entities, just behind Petronas (RM152bil) and Khazanah Nasional (RM69bil).

With no independently generated revenue, the interest payments on Pembinaan PFI’s debts would eventually come from the federal government’s coffers.

The Finance Ministry puts the debt under this third category at RM201.4bil.

All together, Malaysia’s debt and liabilities are said to amount to a total of RM1.09 trillion.

Actually, for those in the loop, the different debt categories and total liabilities are not something new.

Lawmakers from Pakatan Harapan, particularly current Bangi MP Ong Kian Ming, have alerted the authorities about the debt figures over that past few years.

Ong is also currently the special officer to the Finance Minister. The layman might ask, what was the former government’s relevance of classifying these debts into separate off-balance sheet items?

The motive is to make sure the national balance sheet looks healthy and lean.

Economists’ take

Many have questioned the new government’s move to lump contingent liabilities and debt obligations with the direct liabilities. It should be noted that as per the standard procedure of credit rating agencies, only the direct liabilities are taken into the calculation of the debt-to-GDP ratio.

In a StarBiz report this year, Moody’s Investors Service sovereign risk group assistant vice-president Anushka Shah said that by carving out certain expenditures off its budget, the government would be able to optimise its expenditure profile and minimise the associated impacts from its spending.

However, she pointed out that Malaysia’s federal government debt burden remains elevated at 51%, relatively higher than the median of other A-rated sovereign states at 41%.

On the country’s contingent liabilities, Anushka described them as “low-risk” at the current level, and added that the government has been prudent and careful in managing the guaranteed debts.

“We find that the government has adopted rigorous selection criteria when it grants the guarantees to the respective entities.

“The companies which have received guarantees from the government are relatively healthy and have strong balance sheet positions,” she said.

Ever since Dr Mahathir shocked the market with the “RM1 trillion debt” remark, the focus among Malaysians has largely centred on the nominal value of the debt.

A greater emphasis should instead be given on “debt sustainability”, which basically refers to the growth of debt against the growth of the economy.

Economists who spoke to StarBizWeek have mixed opinions on the level of seriousness of Malaysia’s public debt problem.

Suhaimi: Malaysia’s debt has risen faster than economic growth.
Suhaimi: Malaysia’s debt has risen faster

than economic growth.

According to Maybank group chief economist Suhaimi Ilias, Malaysia’s debt has risen faster than economic growth over the last 10 years.
“In the past decade, officially published government debt and government-guaranteed debt have risen by 10% and 14.5% per annum, respectively, faster than the nominal GDP growth of 7% per annum, which raises valid sustainability risk.“On the government’s debt service costs relative to the operating expenditure, the ratio was 12.7% as at end-2017 and based on Budget 2018 is projected to rise to 13.2%. It has been rising steadily from 9.5% in 2012.

“There is a 15% cap on this under the administrative fiscal rule, while the 11th Malaysia Plan target is to lower the ratio to 9.8% in 2020. The government is looking at the debt issue from this sustainability perspective in our opinion,” he says.

 

Lee: Malaysia’s rising public debt level warrants close monitoring.
Lee: Malaysia’s rising public debt level

warrants close monitoring.

Meanwhile, Socio-Economic Research Centre (SERC) executive director Lee Heng Guie says that various indicators of debt burden suggest that Malaysia’s rising public debt level warrants close monitoring to contain the long-term risks of fiscal and debt sustainability.

“High levels of government debt over a sustained period will have economic and financial ramifications over the longer term. Rising public debt could crowd out private capital formation and, therefore, productivity growth.

“This occurs through the competition for domestic liquidity, higher interest rates, a shifting of resources away from the private sector or investment in low-impact projects. This situation is made worse if the government wastes borrowed money on unnecessary projects,” he tells StarBizWeek.

In contrast to Suhaimi and Lee, Alliance Bank Malaysia Bhd chief economist Manokaran Mottain points out that Malaysia’s debt sustainability scenario is yet to be a cause for concern.

 

Manokaran: Debt sustainability scenario is yet to be a cause for concern.
Manokaran: Debt sustainability scenario is

yet to be a cause for concern.

This is because debt repayments are made on an annual basis as opposed to a colossal one-off payment of RM1 trillion.

“Malaysia’s economic growth of above 5% is sufficient to cover government debt. As long as the economy is growing while the government is able to service the debt charges, it is not really that alarming.

“Even in the United States, the government debt-to-GDP level exceeds 100% at US$21 trillion against the real GDP of US$18.57 trillion,” he says.

Manokaran adds that while total government debt has risen over the years, Malaysia’s annual debt growth rate has been growing slower in recent years.

Deleveraging Malaysia

The government must now move fast to introduce measures to reduce and manage the country’s debt levels. This is highly crucial in assuring creditors and investors that the country’s fiscal health remains uncompromised.

Given the fact that the world is currently at the tail-end of the 10-year economic cycle, it is timely for the government to focus on its ability to fulfil its debt obligations.

In the event of an economic turmoil, a heavily-indebted country would be adversely affected.

Lim has emphasised the federal government’s commitment to honour all of the country’s debts.

“This new government puts the interest of the people first, and hence, it is necessary to bite the bullet now, work hard to solve our problems, rather than let it explode in our faces at a later date,” he said in a statement earlier.

Economists believe that the government must strictly embark on reforming the national expenditure in carrying out debt consolidation.

This includes cutting down on unnecessary expenditure, plugging leakages in the federal government’s finances and containing public-sector wage bills.

Lee has recommended an overhaul the current pension system, considering the unsustainable current trend.

“On revenue reform, the design of tax policy should be fair and equitable in order to be sustainable.

“The push for a wide and investment-friendly reform to boost potential growth should be expedited, as strong investment and economic growth has a huge effect on enhancing revenue growth and reducing public debt.

“On budget planning and development, an oversight body needs to be set up to ensure better fiscal rules, budgetary processes and closer fiscal monitoring to ensure fiscal discipline,” says Lee.

Manokaran says the new government should consider expenditure cuts through the privatisation and reformation of the numerous government-linked corporations, as well as the reduction in size and budget allocation of the Prime Minister’s Office.

On the national mega-infrastructure projects, Manokaran and Suhaimi say that the renegotiation and review of such projects will be vital in managing future debt growth.

Time will tell whether the government can live up to its promise of reducing the public debt dilemma. Pakatan must now balance its “populist” electoral promises and stellar fiscal management policies.

As for now, the government deserves to be complimented for calling a spade a spade, acknowledging the problem at hand.

By ganeshwaran kana The Star

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Jobs ahead for Pakatan’s first 100 days fiscal reform


Dr Mahathir moves swiftly to inject confidence and stability into the market

WHEN the results of the 14th general election were finally formalised early Thursday morning, showing that Pakatan Harapan had won and would form the new government, there was a sense of excitement among its voters over the reforms promised by the incoming administration.

At the same time, that wave of buoyancy was tinged with worries of uncertainty. Malaysia was taking a path not traversed and for financial markets, anxiety is something they have never digested well.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad since then has moved swiftly to inject confidence and stability among investors and the population.

His swearing in as PM and the announcement of key ministries in the Cabinet will help in soothing nervy investors ahead of Monday when the stock market opens.

Strong track record: Dr Mahathir at the swearing in ceremony as the 7th Prime Minister. He expects the stock market to see its capitalisation increase over time. — Bernama
Strong track record: Dr Mahathir at the
swearing in ceremony as the 7th Prime Minister. He expects the stock
market to see its capitalisation increase over time. — Bernama

The early movements of the stock market will be closely watched and that is something Dr Mahathir too has quickly sought to assuage. He tried calming anxious investors by saying he expects the stock market to see its capitalisation increase over time. He also assured businesses and investors that Malaysia remains business-friendly and the economy is among his top priorities.

Hints of what businesses and investors can expect are laid out in Pakatan’s manifesto and its to-do list within the first 100 days. Central among the pledges is the confirmation that the unpopular goods and services tax (GST) will be cancelled and replaced with a sales and services tax (SST).

The other measures it intends to carry out in the initial period is to reduce the cost of living, stabilise the price of petrol and introduce targeted petrol subsidies, abolish unnecessary debts that have been imposed on Felda settlers, introduce EPF contributions for housewives, equalise the minimum wage nationally and start the processes to increase the minimum wage, postpone the repayment of the National Higher Education Fund Corp or PTPTN for all graduates whose salaries are below RM4,000 per month and abolish the blacklisting policy.

It also plans to set up a Royal Commissions of Inquiry into 1Malaysia Development Bhd, Felda, Mara and Tabung Haji and reform the governance of these bodies. A Special cabinet committee to properly enforce the Malaysia Agreement 1963 will be set up. There are plans to introduce the Skim Peduli Sihat with RM500 worth of funding for the B40 (low-income) group for basic treatment in registered private clinics, and initiate a comprehensive review of all mega-projects that have been awarded to foreign countries.

What impact the measures will have on government finances is another source of uncertainty but Socio-Economic Research Centre executive director Lee Heng Guie feels it’s too early to assess any impact. “We will have to wait and see if Pakatan will table a new budget. The current estimates are based on the old budget, but I believe the Pakatan budget will continue with fiscal consolidation,” he says.

Pakatan’s alternative budget projects for a smaller fiscal deficit of 2.04%.

AmBank Group Research chief economist Anthony Dass says there needs to be some clarification on the new government’s policy and strategy without risking the ratings.

“Removing the GST and introducing the SST and other subsidies will act positively on the economy, as they help to improve the disposable income of households, and thus, spending. This will help buffer any shortfalls from the GST. Besides prudent financial management as we have seen in Selangor and Penang, a more transparent public procurement system or tendering process will improve competition and lower margins for players and ease budget strains,” he says.

Improving disposable income: Central among the pledges is the confirmation that the unpopular GST will be cancelled and replaced with the SST.
Improving disposable income: Central among the
pledges is the confirmation that the unpopular GST will be cancelled
and replaced with the SST
.

Fiscal implications

Among the to-do list for its first 100 days in office, it is the promise to repeal the GST that has rating agencies worried.

“We are closely following the developments around some campaign promises that could have a negative impact on market sentiment and trigger volatility in the financial markets. These dynamics will take time to unfold and a lot will depend on what the new Government unveils in the coming weeks and months,” says Moody’s Investors Service Financial Institutions Group vice-president Simon Chen in a statement.

“If investor sentiment worsens materially, we will see increasing risks of capital outflows and a further weakening of the ringgit, that could in turn dampen private-sector consumption and operating conditions for banks in Malaysia.”

He did, however, say that Malaysia has weathered challenging periods, in particular, during the 1MDB scandal.

Fitch Ratings in a statement says the May 9 results means a higher likelihood of fiscal and economic policy change.

“The extent to which the new government’s agenda will shift major policy is uncertain, but the Pakatan victory and its policy platform indicate a much greater potential for change. In the meantime, Fitch will monitor the new Government’s policy agenda as it evolves,” it says.

It views policy slippage leading to deterioration in fiscal discipline and higher government debt or deficits as a negative rating sensitivity.

“Among the most notable proposals is the replacement of the GST – a value-added tax launched in 2015 – with the narrower SST that had preceded it. The GST has become a key source of government revenue, accounting for 18% of total revenue equivalent to just over 3% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017.

“By comparison, the SST accounted for only 8% of total revenue and 1.6% of the GDP in its last year, 2014. As such, absent offsetting measures, the replacement of the GST would result in a correspondingly higher deficit,” it says.

Lee: We will have to wait and see if Pakatan will table a new budget.
Lee: We will have to wait and see if Pakatan will table a new budget.

Fitch points to another significant proposal, which is to reinstate some of the fuel subsidies. It says that if fuel subsidies were to be reinstated, they could offset some potential budgetary gains from rising oil and commodity prices.

Maybank Investment Bank in a report says that the removal of the GST will mean a projected revenue loss of RM44bil based on the current budget estimates. It says that even if the GST is replaced by the SST, which brought in RM17bil in 2014, there could be a prospective loss of RM27bil in government revenue and that could lift the budget deficit by 1.9 percentage points.

The report, however, does point to Pakatan’s alternative budget released in October 2017, which says that abolishing the GST will stimulate the economy and raise other tax revenues by boosting consumer and business activities. It says tax revenues will rise from better economic growth, higher receipts of corporate income tax, real property gains tax and other sources of income.

Government expenditure is also expected to drop by cutting certain allocations such as for the Prime Minister’s Office that can help buffer the cost of the GST removal.

It says that operating expenditure could be improved by having open tenders and the rationalisation in non-critical spending from supplies and services, which accounts for 14.4% of operating expenditure, grants and transfers to state governments and statutory bodies (9%) and the others’ category (7.8%), which consists of grants to statutory funds, public corporations and international organisations as well as insurance claims and gratuities.

Higher oil prices, however, are a revenue source for the Pakatan government and can help mitigate the loss of income from the removal of the GST. Maybank’s analysis shows that for every US$10 rise in the crude oil price, government revenue will rise by between RM7bil and RM8bil. That increase will have to be balanced out by the Pakatan manifesto’s pledge to give higher royalties to Sabah and Sarawak, and petrol subsidies.

Growth direction

Fiscal consolidation will mean there will likely be an impact on economic growth, as government expenditure plays an important role in generating growth. Economists are, however, optimistic that consumption boost from lower prices from the removal of the GST will help buffer any shortfall from spending.

They feel that the policies that will be rolled out in the coming months will be positive for the market and economy.

“We reiterate our -2.8% budget deficit to GDP for 2018 with the GDP to grow around 5.5%, supported by domestic demand and exports on the back of a stronger global GDP,” says Dass.

“We foresee better management in the operating expenditure with a more transparent procurement system or tendering process and efficiency in development expenditure projects and targets.”

Maybank is keeping its 2018 growth target at 5.3%, pending details on Pakatan’s economic policies.

“We are neutral to positive on the consumer spending growth outlook, based on Budget 2018 and Pakatan’s GE14 manifesto on measures to address living costs and boost disposable income. The main issue on the growth outlook now is investment, as businesses adopt a ‘wait-and-see’ stance and amid potential government reviews of several China-linked infrastructure projects and investments,” it says.

The investment climate, though, will be crucial in generating higher economic growth for the new government.

Lee says investor-friendly policies are important and the next three to six months will be important after Cabinet positions are filled and their work starts.

“Dr Mahathir’s strong track record, added with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as the prime minister-in-waiting and the maturity of Malaysians as reflected in this GE, augur well for the country. These are positive signs on the business and consumer confidence,” says Dass.

“This will help the investment mood to improve and the pick-up in capital expenditure.”

By jagdev singh sidhu, The Star
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New approaches to people oriented human resource management


People-centric logo: The Chinese character for ‘people’, rén, dominates the entrance to its office.

 

The growing usage of technology can help human resource achieve better performance

IT IS often said that managing people is a combination of art and science. But the increasing dominance of technology in workplaces opens up a new perspective and opportunities in how organisations most valuable resource – its human capital – is being employed.

One of the most obvious changes that can be observed among employers, says Accendo HR Solutions group chief executive officer Sharma KSK Lachu, is the realisation that maintaining the traditional functions of the human resource (HR) department – such as processing payroll and employees’ rosters – is not the way forward to excel in the digital age.

New approaches emphasising efficiencies and talent development are needed to excel in people management, he adds.

“The process of recruiting, retaining and developing talents within organisations has to be changed to meet the expectation of both employers and employees, which in turn could help translate into outstanding performance standards,” he says.

Sharma notes that rich data insights are the best tool to help organisations deliver more engaging content and meet growing customer expectations for highly relevant and targeted information in the workplace. He calls it the democratisation of data and information to help workplaces function more efficiently. This could also help employees lead a more satisfactory work life as functions and responsibilities can be streamlined with the help of data, enabling them to focus on higher-level work.

Bigger reach: Sharma says the company is also looking at expanding into other Asean countries.

Bigger reach: Sharma says the company is also looking at expanding into other Asean countries.

Today’s workforce is different. There needs to be more incentive for employees to stay on in their jobs.

Citing the example of his own father, who stayed with a single company throughout his entire working life, Sharma says it would be a wonder for organisations today to have employees who would dedicate their entire working life to a single entity without asking much in return.

“He never complains about the lack of a pay raise, promotion or other perks from the management. But today’s working adults, especially the gen-Y and -Z, don’t share such values anymore,” he says.

Accendo relies heavily on technology, data and behavioural sciences in its approach to providing the right HR solutions for its clients to manage their manpower. The consultancy company is currently developing several tools, including artificial intelligence (AI) and HR management systems, for its corporate clients.

However, Accendo, which specialises in services such as talent acquisition, performance management, talent analytic and secession planning, puts the human element on the forefront of how organisations’ HR should function.

Technologies and people form the backbone of Accendo. A walk into its corporate office gives you the feel of a tech startup with open spaces and programmers in casual attire. But a reminder that people comes before technology is apparent in the form of a corporate logo, Rén – the Chinese character for ‘people’ – which dominates the entrance to its office.

Talent development: Accendo’s team consists of people with various skills to support client’s human resource needs.
 Talent development: Accendo’s team consists of people with various skills to support client’s human resource needs.

New HR challenges

There is a need for a sharper and faster decision-making process, and the HR department has to be equipped to handle this. The aim is to help them to understand and grow their employees. This includes helping people who are pursuing career development opportunities at every age and are working longer than ever before.

Individual business leaders as well as business units should be looking at HR to provide support and strategic advice on everything from upskilling, motivating employees and future workforce planning to managing multiple generations of employees under one roof.

Therefore, specific solutions that are tailor-made and offer personalised learning opportunities for employees of all types will become the norm.

“Many organisations today still view manpower as a tool to maximise profit. But our mission is to promote a culture where companies develop the talents of their employees to contribute towards the growth of the company.

“We have turned down projects worth millions of ringgit because of the different viewpoint on how to develop and maximise the potential of employees. For us, our clients have to share our values, which is about organisations allowing their employees to own their career. We developed processes that would enable organisations to understand their people, and help develop their skills,” says Sharma.

Casual space: Accendos corporate office gives you the feel of a tech startup with open spaces and programmers in casual attire.
Casual space: Accendos corporate office gives you the feel of a tech startup with open spaces and programmers in casual attire.

Prior to his return from Sydney, Australia, where he had his start in the HR industry, Sharma was exposed to how technology and data science could help in efficient decision-making processes.

One of his motivations to move back home 10 years ago to start his own business here was partly to prove a point that developing technology-based HR solutions using data science can be done successfully in Malaysia.

Founded in 2009, Accendo is majority-owned by Sharma, while his two other co-founders have minority interests in the company. The company has morphed from being a HR solutions provider to an integrated HR consulting company with their own their technology solutions.

It has since recorded an impressive growth rate and is now considering strategic partnership with either a financial or strategic investor as it seeks to scale up its operations internationally and fund its technology research and development.

Sharma says it is also looking at expanding into other Asean countries, as this region could benefit from data science.

As the profile and success of Accendo increase, the company has been attracting potential investors and is receiving an average of about one investor approach per month. It has held talks with one potential strategic investor but has not reached any agreement as yet, he says.

Accendo, however, will only consider an investor who shares the company’s values, in which human capital is considered as an asset to be developed and not as a commodity to be used in achieving corporate financial goals, Sharma adds.

A help mate: Amid concerns over the rise of technological unemployment, machines can help people work better. – Bloomberg
A help mate: Amid concerns over the rise of technological unemployment, machines can help people work better. – Bloomberg

It has not seriously engaged with any party currently, but will do so if the right strategic or financial investor comes along.

The timing of a potential listing will also depend on the company’s capital requirements. Sharma says the company has been preparing for a possible listing by 2020, including making sure its financial reporting standards and company’s organisation structures are in line with that of a public company.

The majority of the company’s tech talents are local, but the company will not shy away from hiring foreign talents if necessary. Accendo currently has around 35 full-time staff members, but this will grow to over 50 by year-end as the company plans to hire more AI and other tech-related personnel, says Sharma.

Accendo is expected to record more than RM20mil of revenue this year. It has recorded an annual growth rate of 40% to 45% since it restructured its business model four years ago.

Its corporate clients include some of the most recognisable brand names in the market such as Astro

image: https://cdn.thestar.com.my/Themes/img/chart.png
, Maybank, KPMG, Nestlé, Bursa Malaysia and other financial institutions and large multinational corporations in Malaysia.

In the longer term, Sharma says Accendo aims to be the platform for all things related to work technologies and solutions, from HR staffing technologies to meeting specific needs and reinventing performance in the workplace for optimum efficacy and maximum success. – by C. H.Goh, The Star
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Long ties: As one of the earliest countries supporting the Belt and Road Initiative, Malaysia’s collaboration with China takes the front row among Asean countries, says the writer, who has visited various development sites since he arrived here including the Exchange 106 in the Tun Razak Exchange (left) and the Iskandar Regional Development Authority office in Johor .Balancing the tech disruption

Embracing for common development – Nation

 

China’s executive recruitment market growing fast as demand rises …

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Restructuring our household debt


NEW Year always come with new resolutions. Finance is an important aspect of most people’s checklists when it comes to planning new goals.

While it is good to set new financial targets, it is also vital to re-look at our debt portfolio to ascertain if it is at a healthy state.

At a national level, our country also has its financial targets matched against its debt portfolio.

According to the latest Risk Developments and Assessment of Financial Stability 2016 Report by Bank Negara, the country’s household debt was at RM1.086 trillion or 88.4% of gross domestic product (GDP) as at end 2016.

Residential housing loan accounted for 50.3% (RM546.3bil) of total household debts, motor vehicles at 14.6%, personal financing at 14.9%, non-residential loan was 7.4%, securities at 5.7%, followed by credit cards at 3.5% and other items at 3.6%.

Evidently, residential housing loan is the highest among all types of household debt. However, a McKinsey Global Institute Report on “Debt and (Not Much) Deleveraging” in 2015 highlighted that in advanced countries, mortgage or housing loan comprises 74% of total household debt on average.

As a country that aspires to be a developed nation, a housing loan ratio of 50.3% to total household debt would be considered low, compared to 74% for the advanced countries. In other words, we are spending too much on items that depreciate in value immediately – such as car loans, credit card loans and personal loans – compared to assets that appreciate in value in the long run, such as houses.

Advanced economies, which are usually consumer nations, have only 26% debts on non-housing loan as compared to ours at 49.7%.

In order to adopt the household debt ratio of advanced economies, our housing loan of RM546.3bil should be at 74% of total household debt. This means that if we were to keep our housing loan of RM546.3bil constant, our total household debt should be reduced from the current RM1.086 trillion to a more manageable RM738bil. This would require other non-housing loans (car loans, credit card loans and personal loans etc) to reduce from 49.7% of total household debt to only 26%. To achieve this ratio, the non-housing loan debt must collapse from the current RM539.7bil to only RM192bil.

Reducing total household debt from the current RM1.086 trillion to a more manageable RM738bil would also have the added benefit of reducing our total household debt-to-GDP ratio from the high 88.4% to only 60%, making us one of the top countries globally for financial health.

Malaysia’s household debt at present ranked as one of the highest in Asia. Based on the same 2015 McKinsey Report, our household debt-to-income ratio was 146% in 2014 (the ratio of other developing countries was about 42%) compared to the average of 110% in advanced economies.

Adjusting the debt ratio by reducing car loans, personal loans and credit card loans will make our nation stay financially healthy.

Car values depreciate at about 10% to 20% per year based on insurance calculations, accounting standards and actual market prices. Assets financed by personal and credit card loans typically depreciate immediately and aggressively.

The easy access to credit cards and personal loan facilities tend to encourage people to spend excessively, especially when there is no maximum credit limit imposed on credit cards for those earning more than RM36,000 per year.

If we maximised the credit limit given without considering our financial ability, we will need a long time to repay due to the high interest rates, which ranged from 15% to 18% per annum.

Based on a report in The Star recently, Malaysia’s youth are seeing a worrying trend with those aged between 25 and 44 forming the biggest group classified as bankrupt.

The top four reasons for bankruptcy were car loans (26.63%), personal loans (25.48%), housing loans (16.87%) and business loans (10.24%).

It is time for the Government to introduce more drastic cooling-off measures for non-housing loans in order to curb debt that is not backed by assets. This will protect the rakyat from further impoverishment that they are voicing and feeling today.

As we kick start the new year, it is good to relook into our debt portfolio. When we are able to identify where we make up most of our debts, and start to reallocate our financial resources more effectively, we will be heading towards a sound and healthier financial status as a nation.

By Alan Tong – Food for thought

Datuk Alan Tong has over 50 years of experience in property development. He was the world president of FIABCI International for 2005/2006 and awarded the Property Man of the Year 2010 at FIABCI Malaysia Property Award. He is also the group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties. For feedback, please e-mail feedback@fiabci-asiapacific.com.
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New Year 2018 high for Malaysia


FBM KLCI moves higher past 1,800 mark while ringgit breaches RM4 level

In a synchronised fashion, the ringgit, stock market and exports are all glowing for Malaysia. Add this to the rising price of crude oil, economists are expecting the good start to the year to continue leading up to GE14. Experts foresee these translating to lower import costs and more affordable overseas education.

 

Busa and ringgit on a high

PETALING JAYA: In a rare occurrence, the local capital markets got off to a roaring start in the first week of the new year.

US$ vs ringgit at 3.9965 

Sentiments on the stock market picked up as it sailed through the 1,800 mark, the ringgit breached the RM4 level against the US dollar and the latest trade numbers released showed that exports have hit record levels.

FBM KLCI up 14.52pts to 1,817.97

The FBM KLCI, a key benchmark for the local stock market, closed at 1,817.97, up 14.52 points yesterday – the highest since April 2015. Analysts and fund managers expect the upward momentum to continue, leading to the 14th General Election (GE14).

“The local stock market is set to continue its upward momentum, with investors in optimistic mood, lingering upon expectations of the GE14,” an analyst said.

The Malaysian stock market is now playing catch-up with key regional markets in other countries that have been moving up.

For instance, in the United States, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at fresh record highs above 25,000. Trading volume on Bursa has risen sharply to a high of nearly six billion shares valued at RM3.94bil. This is the highest since 2014.

“The increasing volume is an indicator of more investors joining the fray,” said the analyst.

The ringgit also perked up against the US dollar and strengthened to 3.9945 yesterday, the strongest level since August 2016.

Crude oil prices continue to climb with the Brent Crude rising above US$67 per barrel. Apart from a brief spike in May 2015, this is the highest price levels it has reached since December 2014, when the oil price started its slide down.

Exports in November rise to RM83.50bil

Exports hit record high of RM83.5bil in November – Business News …

Adding to the optimism, the country’s latest trade data for November showed that exports exceeded expectations and rose to a monthly high of RM83.5bil. This is an increase of 14.4% from last year.

The head of UOB Kay Hian Malaysia Research, Vincent Khoo, expects global and local conditions to be favourable for the local stock market as sentiment builds up for the GE14.

“Malaysia has been a laggard and now it is reversing its underperformance. Liquidity is strong locally and internationally as there is more foreign funds participation.

“Economic numbers are strong and export momentum continues to be solid,” Khoo said.

Socio Economic Research Centre executive director Lee Heng Guie said there were continued optimism and positive sentiments on the global economy and markets.

He said the tax reforms in the US would beef up corporate earnings while central banks around the world were raising rates.

The impending GE14, he added, spurred investors’ interest in the stock market and the recovery in oil prices continued to lift the demand for ringgit.

He said the ringgit had a good rally since the last Bank Negara meeting and the upcoming meeting on Jan 29 might see the central bank review its overnight policy rates (OPR) upwards.

The OPR now is 3.25% and many are expecting it to increase, a move that would spur banks to raise their interest rates.

Additionally, Lee said trade data was better than expected and as long as the macro numbers and earnings deliver, it would lift sentiments on market.

Nonetheless, he said investors might be a bit cautious when the dissolution of Parliament was announced.

Meanwhile, Oanda head of trading Asia-Pacific Stephen Innes said Bursa Malaysia was playing catchup as the ringgit remained undervalued in a lot of fund managers’ portfolio.

“But I think the current run will take us to 3.90 (against the US dollar) but at this stage, I think the market is starting to factor in the Bank Negara rate hike in January.

“So we may see a slower appreciation of the ringgit and we should expect profit taking ahead of the rate decision (by BNM) later in the month,” he added.

On the external front, Inness said the global equity market rally was benefiting from higher commodity prices in general and specifically oil prices.

“The recent supply disruptions are having a much more significant impact on prices given Opec’s (Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) recent production cut and the market is certainly much tighter than it has been in the past.

“Rising oil prices bode well for the FBM KLCI given that oil and gas constituents play a big role in the KLCI make-up. However, I don’t think this is strictly an isolated oil play but it is also rallying on the global growth narrative which is supporting export-oriented firms,” Innes said.

By leong hung yee The Staronline

Bursa and ringgit on a high

 

FBM KLCI moves higher past 1,800 mark while ringgit breaches RM4 level

PETALING JAYA: In a rare occurrence, the local capital markets got off to a roaring start in the first week of the new year.

Sentiments on the stock market picked up as it sailed through the 1,800 mark, the ringgit breached the RM4 level against the US dollar and the latest trade numbers released showed that exports have hit record levels.

The FBM KLCI, a key benchmark for the local stock market, closed at 1,817.97, up 14.52 points yesterday – the highest since April 2015. Analysts and fund managers expect the upward momentum to continue, leading to the 14th General Election (GE14).

“The local stock market is set to continue its upward momentum, with investors in optimistic mood, lingering upon expectations of the GE14,” an analyst said.

The Malaysian stock market is now playing catch-up with key regional markets in other countries that have been moving up.

For instance, in the United States, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at fresh record highs above 25,000. Trading volume on Bursa has risen sharply to a high of nearly six billion shares valued at RM3.94bil. This is the highest since 2014.

“The increasing volume is an indicator of more investors joining the fray,” said the analyst.

The ringgit also perked up against the US dollar and strengthened to 3.9945 yesterday, the strongest level since August 2016.

Crude oil prices continue to climb with the Brent Crude rising above US$67 per barrel. Apart from a brief spike in May 2015, this is the highest price levels it has reached since December 2014, when the oil price started its slide down.

Adding to the optimism, the country’s latest trade data for November showed that exports exceeded expectations and rose to a monthly high of RM83.5bil. This is an increase of 14.4% from last year.

The head of UOB Kay Hian Malaysia Research, Vincent Khoo, expects global and local conditions to be favourable for the local stock market as sentiment builds up for the GE14.

“Malaysia has been a laggard and now it is reversing its underperformance. Liquidity is strong locally and internationally as there is more foreign funds participation.

“Economic numbers are strong and export momentum continues to be solid,” Khoo said.

Socio Economic Research Centre executive director Lee Heng Guie said there were continued optimism and positive sentiments on the global economy and markets.

He said the tax reforms in the US would beef up corporate earnings while central banks around the world were raising rates.

The impending GE14, he added, spurred investors’ interest in the stock market and the recovery in oil prices continued to lift the demand for ringgit.

He said the ringgit had a good rally since the last Bank Negara meeting and the upcoming meeting on Jan 29 might see the central bank review its overnight policy rates (OPR) upwards.

The OPR now is 3.25% and many are expecting it to increase, a move that would spur banks to raise their interest rates.

Additionally, Lee said trade data was better than expected and as long as the macro numbers and earnings deliver, it would lift sentiments on market.

Nonetheless, he said investors might be a bit cautious when the dissolution of Parliament was announced.

Meanwhile, Oanda head of trading Asia-Pacific Stephen Innes said Bursa Malaysia was playing catchup as the ringgit remained undervalued in a lot of fund managers’ portfolio.

“But I think the current run will take us to 3.90 (against the US dollar) but at this stage, I think the market is starting to factor in the Bank Negara rate hike in January.

“So we may see a slower appreciation of the ringgit and we should expect profit taking ahead of the rate decision (by BNM) later in the month,” he added.

On the external front, Inness said the global equity market rally was benefiting from higher commodity prices in general and specifically oil prices.

“The recent supply disruptions are having a much more significant impact on prices given Opec’s (Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) recent production cut and the market is certainly much tighter than it has been in the past.

“Rising oil prices bode well for the FBM KLCI given that oil and gas constituents play a big role in the KLCI make-up. However, I don’t think this is strictly an isolated oil play but it is also rallying on the global growth narrative which is supporting export-oriented firms,” Innes said.

Experts see good tidings in firmer currency

Back in favour:People queuing to change the ringgit for US Dollar at a money exchange outlet in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur.

PETALING JAYA: Lower import costs and more affordable overseas education are among the benefits brought about by a firmer ringgit and bullish stockmarket.

National Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (NCCIM) president Tan Sri Ter Leong Yap said the rise in the ringgit is a sign of growing confidence in the nation’s economy.

“These are good signs which have set a feel-good mood for the market. What is most important is for the ringgit to remain stable as business needs this rather than having to hedge on the foreign exchange,” he said.

However, a stronger ringgit could act as a “double-edged sword”, Ter added, as exports would now cost higher.

“Exporters may not make the windfall profit as before but they had adjusted to this,” said Ter, who is also Associated Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (ACCCIM) president.

Malaysia Retail Chain Association (MRCA) president Datuk Garry Chua said a stronger ringgit bodes well for retailers that rely heavily on imports.

“In the end, the shoppers will benefit as cost of products would be lower due to the exchange rate,” he said.

Chua said the positive stock run was also good news for retailers and consumers.

“People tend to spend more due to easy earnings from the market and this is good for business,” he said.

Malaysia Associated Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MAICCI) president Tan Sri Kenneth Eswaran said the positive developments showed that the nation’s economic transformation is on the right track.

“The ringgit breaking the RM4 barrier and the stock market climb are signs showing the Government’s economic transformation plans are bearing fruit. Traders and consumers will now enjoy lower import costs,” he said.

Taylor’s University deputy vice chancellor Prof Dr Pradeep Nair said the ringgit’s rally is expected to continue and strengthen below the RM4 region.

“For the education sector, this will be beneficial for parents who wish to send their children abroad to do part or whole of their studies to countries like the US, UK and Australia, should the trend continue,” he said.

He said a firmer ringgit would not have a major impact on incoming foreign students.

“We are still relatively cheaper than other countries that use English as the medium of teaching and we will remain one of the preferred destinations for foreign students looking for affordable, quality education,” he said.

Sunway Education Group senior executive director Dr Elizabeth Lee said some parents would be more willing to send their children abroad for further studies.

“I sense that enthusiasm in parents who enrolled their children with us. They are more confident of supporting their higher education throughout,” she said.

By martin carvalho The Staronline

Ringgit boost for investors, importers 

Companies which lost out during a low ringgit recouping fast

Ringgit on uptrend: People queuing up to change money at a money changer. The ringgit has broken past the crucial 4.00 level.

THE New Year is in, tides are changing and the ringgit is recovering from the past two year’s extreme blues.

The long-awaited reprieve has finally come for certain consumer companies that import intermediary goods for their production cycle.

Foreigners who have taken advantage by accumulating and buying into the equity and/or bond market when the ringgit was at a weaker level last year, would be firmly in the money now.

Analysts see the local currency as now being on a cruise control climb mode moving to new highs in the past week and possibly in the near future.

They note that the foreign buyers would see two-way gains and would be able to realise their gains if they choose to.

“If they liquidate and take the money out they will realise the gains and benefit. Last year the ringgit strengthened by almost 10.4%. Ringgit already broke the crucial 4.00 level, assuming that they make money from the market and take it out, they will also pay less to convert to US dollar,” Socio Economic Research Centre’s executive director Lee Heng Guie tells StarBiz Week.

The ringgit had seen a gain of 0.64% after we entered the New Year, adding to its gains that was achieved in the past two months of 5.63%.<

Currency strategists agree that the next crucial psychological mark would be the 3.80 level that is the infamous currency peg level some years after the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis.

The recovering oil prices with the lifting of equity markets due to strong global sentiment aided gains in the ringgit, Lee says.

The FBM KLCI saw a strong upward move as investors celebrated Christmas and ushered in the New Year thereafter.

The benchmark index had gained some 4.6% since Dec 19 to yesterday’s close at 1,817.97.

Meanwhile, the other companies that will stand to gain are consumer-driven companies especially those that have imported intermediary goods to manufacture or complete end products.

Lee says the strengthening ringgit, if it is sustained, would eventually help to boost the consumer sentiment index (CSI).

In the latest reported third quarter of 2017, the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (Mier) said the CSI continued to remain weak with the index having retreated further to 77.1.

“Anxieties over higher prices grow and (there are) burly spending plans amid waning incomes and jobs,” the Mier said at the release of third quarter CSI figures then.

Any CSI level below the 100 indicates weakness on the consumer front.

Lee says he is hopeful the stronger ringgit would help eventually translate to additional cost savings to the consumer in the form of lower prices.

Meanwhile, MIDF Research’s consumer stocks analyst Nabil Fithri says not all consumer companies would automatically gain from the strengthening ringgit.

He notes that the gainers among the consumer companies would mainly be those which derive their sales from the local market and have imported intermediary goods in the supply chain.

“On average, the companies that import their raw materials lock in the prices through forward contracts for the upcoming six months. So, if there are any gains to their profit margins, it would be seen in the second half of the year,” he says.

Among the companies that stand to gain from this trend are the major consumer food companies such as Fraser & Neave Holdings Bhd (F&N), Nestle (M) Bhd and Dutch Lady Milk Industries Bhd.

Strong gains: The Dutch Lady Milk Industries
factory in Petaling Jaya. The company’s stocks had been making strong
gains since last year.
Better profit: Nestle Malaysia is one of the companies gaining from a strong ringgit.

All three stocks have been making strong gains in their share prices last year despite their high base.

Observers note that a common theme today that belies these stocks are that they derive their sales from the local market, with minimal or zero exports. Hence they will benefit from strong gains should the local currency appreciate further.

“Their raw materials that form a big part of their production are ingredients such as milk, coffee and sugar which are not readily available locally. They need to be imported and these are denominated in US dollar,” an analyst with a local research outfit says.

Two of those stocks that were mentioned above topped the gainers list on Friday: Nestle rising by RM1.20 to a new historical high of RM103.80 and F&N hitting an alltime high of RM27.82.

Investors may also want to train their sights on the smaller-capitalised consumer stocks some of which had been at a disadvantage earlier due to the weakened ringgit.

The stocks in this space include Apollo Food Holdings Bhd, Hup Seng Industries and Berjaya Food Bhd.

Apollo Food, the maker of packaged confectionery products see a big part of their sales being derived locally and their food is usually stocked in the school canteens.

The stock is trading at a current price to earnings ratio (PER) of 23.6 times and forward financial year 2018 ending April 30 (FY18) PER of 18.96 times.

The company’s second quarter profit had dropped by 11.1% to RM3.82mil primarily due to the lower ringgit then compared to the same quarter a year ago.

When the ringgit was trading above the 4.00 level then, the company had said in its prospectus that its operating environment was more challenging due to the increase in costs of raw materials.

Meanwhile, Berjaya Food Bhd could see further gains ahead as the ringgit continues its ascent.

The company owns half of the popular Starbucks franchise in Malaysia beside owning the worldwide Kenny Rogers Roasters franchise after acquiring KRR International Corp of the US in April 2008.

AmInvestment Bank Research said last month that it believed the worst is over for Berjaya Food with KRR’s robust same store sales growth following the disposal of KRR Indonesia.

The research house had highlighted that Berjaya Food would benefit from a stronger ringgit.

AmInvestment Research maintained its buy recommendation on Berjaya Food with fair value of RM1.91 per share.

“Valuations are pegged to a PER of 25 times FY19 forward, reflecting a 20% premium to its historical valuations. We think that it is justified as Berjaya Food has significantly enhanced earnings visibility following the disposal of KRR Indonesia, attractive growth off a low base and a stellar Starbucks brand,” it says.

By daniel khoo TheStaronline

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